American Horror Story Recaps: Chapter Three
Well, this episode was…something. To be honest, I think this was a pretty solid outing for the show, but the whole thing has been overshadowed by Ryan Murphy not being able to keep his big mouth shut.
The show’s co-creator, after spending so long prancing around the mystery that was season six, apparently couldn’t hold back any longer and announced a “huge twist” in the sixth episode of this season. A twist, he promised, no-one would see coming. A twist that would change everything about the season so far. And a twist that, by it’s very existence and announcement, has served to bloody well distract me from what’s actually going on week to week (skip to the end for my speculation of what that twist might be).
Okay, so, let’s try and keep focused on this episode- what actually happened? After the disappearance of Lee’s daughter last week, the police, the FBI, and her ex-husband all turn up to search the woods for her. After Lee’s husband buys it in yer run-of-the-mill barbecue crucifixion in the woods, Lee becomes a suspect, and the search for her daughter intensifies. A psychic (played by the magnificently bewigged Leslie Jordan, who absolutely kills it and brings the episode up by at least two full grades with his poisoned brand of camp) turns up to offer help in the case, and ends up revealing a little more about the colonists who seem to be haunting the house.
I mean, all things considered, it is a pretty neatly put-together episode. Jennifer Lynch takes the helm as director, and fits easily into the hyper-stylised AHS style; James Wong manages to draw enough interesting moments out of the increasingly grating doc format to make it worth watching. And the show comes back to the theme that has arguably tied all six seasons together; motherhood (I have many, many thoughts on American Horror Story and motherhood, which I will find space to articulate on in another recap because it’s one theme I think the show has consistently dealt with in an interesting, innovative and often powerful fashion).
Angela Basset and Adina Potter kill as they recount the search for their daughter, and Cuba Gooding Jnr and Andre Holland continue to be quietly impressive. In terms of acting, however, the star of Chapter Three is without question Kathy Bates; once again outfitted with an old-fashioned outlook and an outrageous accent, she plays Thomasyn, the leader of a group of colonists left in charge while her husband searches for supplies. They turn on her and cast her out into the woods in shackles, and, after encountering some kind of feral wood nymph (played by Lady Gaga, which I’ll get to in a moment), she munches on some still-beating heart and returns to the colonists with some ass to cleaver. Kathy Bates is a magical actress when given the right material, and this is precisely what the right material looks like for her- yes, it’s campy, but it’s stoic, clever, unsettling and dignified, all at the same time. And that’s even with the awful Wes Bentley and his “Oh no, that can’t be what he’s going with for the season” accent to bounce off of.
It’s good, too, to see Lady Gaga not just playing a glamorous duplicate of last season’s countess, which is what I feared- she’s genuinely weird here, and I’m into it. She appears to be the one pulling the strings behind the whole sinister operation out in the woods- and speaking of pulling the strings, we get a brief glimpse behind-the-scenes of My Roanoake Nightmare, as Adina Potter calls for the cameras to be turned off. Her request is fulfilled, and in the process we catch the voice of the interviewer (calling it: that’s Cheyenne Jackson, and Evan Peters will be joining him behind the camera) and are offered a look at the crew as well, hinting that the show might be taking us down a fourth- (well, third-) wall breaking path in the near future.
Which brings me back around to that twist. Yes, some other stuff happened in this episode- there were some feral boys suckling on a pig, you know, standard AHS. But when the whole show is apparently leading to a twist that will chuck everything on it’s head…what’s the point super invested in these characters and this storyline? The show’s marketing was built on mystery, which was really cool, and it seems like they’ve undermined that barely a fortnight into it’s broadcast. Yes, it can be fun to speculate on theories (I’m about to, after all) but the announcement has left me feeling a little jaded- and worried that AHS is about to take a sharp left turn from the interesting, quietly entertaining serialized storytelling it’s been pulling off so far and back into the flailing, boring, episodic camp it had been slipping further into since Coven. Cynical? Yeah, probably. But then, I’ve watched a Ryan Murphy show before, so I can’t really be blamed for thinking something interesting and nuanced is about to turn into a steaming pile of shite.
Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get down to my random speculation about what that twist is going to be, so I can come back here and go “HA! HA! LOOK! I WAS RIGHT!” come episode six.
Lou’s Poorly Articulated Fan Theory Corner
- After this episode’s little glimpse behind the cameras, I’m pretty certain that from episode six onwards, the show is going to focus on the behind-the-scenes making of My Roanoke Nightmare- and, presumably, the ghosty-ghoulies who haunt the set. Or maybe they’ll go down the “the real monsters are humanity/the media/exploitation” path? Whatever, I’m almost 100% we’re going behind the scenes.
1b): This, but instead of going behind the scenes, we follow the actors and production staff filming at the house, in a Grave Encounters/Grudge 2-esque”OH NOES IT REALLY IS HAUNTED!” story. I’m less sure about this one, but it’s a way for the show to keep Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jnr et al around, and it would be such a shame to lose them. And a lot of fun to see them as actors off-camera.
- We go behind the scenes to shoot on location at a DIFFERENT big ol’ house, that’s revealed to be haunted with it’s own set of ghosts. Fuck it, why not make it the Murder House from season one since we’re tying seasons together now?
- There have been a bunch of references to earlier seasons in this season so far- Leslie Jordan’s ostensible “witch” coming from New Orleans (a la Coven), the Murder House premise (miscarriage, purchase of large rural-ish house haunted by murderous spirits), pigmen cantering about, amongst many, many, many others (let me know the ones you’ve spotted in the comments). And I think this leading up to a forth-wall-breaking reveal that all of American Horror Story has been part of the My Roanoke Nightmare franchise, hence the consistently lurid details and the same cast from season to season.
- Our leading three characters- Lee, Shelby, and Matt- are all impaired in some way. Lee has been shown commenting on how much Shelby drinks, Matt’s frontal lobe was damaged in the attack that drove them out of the city, and Lee herself relapsed into drinking once more. These are our main narrators, and we have a reason to believe each of them might be seeing things or making things up. Cue a “They’re craaaaazzzzyyyyy!” sixth episode twist, which I sincerely would not put past anyone involved with this show.